Something Other (Cheaper) Than Formica?

I'm a cheap SOB who wants to make a bunch of custom workbenches. A four-by-eight-foot sheet of Formica (top layer only--the kind you glue to the substrate) costs about $40 US at the local warehouse store. Does anyone know of products similar to but cheaper than Formica, and possible sources for them? Something like rolls of more-flexible but less-durable melamine?
A brief search has turned up nothing, probably because I don't know what to call the stuff!
Many thanks,
Cam
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Cameron Lee writes:

Wilsonart is a good laminate, but very similar to Formica in flexibility and cost. Do a google search on "plastic laminates" for more information and contacts than you will ever need...a trial run got over 69,000 hits.
What kind of workbench are you building that requires a plastic laminate top? Certainly not woodworking, as it will not stand up to pounding, cuts fairly easily, chips, and is susceptible to overall damage from rough use.
Charlie Self "Politics: A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage. " Ambrose Bierce
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The terminology you are looking for is 'High Pressure Laminate" Formica is a Brand but has gone Generic with a small " f " There is not much diffeance in any of the brands, If working with it a lot you will find differances in each color you work with. Darker colors are generally harder and more Brittle, you have several differant thickness's comonly known as V-32 (1/32 of an inch thick), General purpose which at one time was .062 thick now your lucky if it is .052 and Postforming which is made of a differant paper that the regular materials and is probabably .042 to .045 in thickness. They all have the same amount of Melamine on the surface the only test that they differ in is the Impact test.
Formica, Wilson Art Nevamar Pionite Laminart Arborite Panolam
There is a few others these are the most common ones
You are not doing to bad if a distributer is selling to you at that price. Find the local Distributers for any of the Brands and ask if they have some discontinued colors they are selling at a lower price, Also call some local cabinet shops and see if they have any left over sheets that they would sell you at a lower price They do indeed make a durable work bench Good luck, George

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George M. Kazaka wrote:

That's good advice.
I saw some sheets on clearance at Lowes one day...got 4 sheets for $6/ea! Rather neutral tan pattern...looks a bit like sawdust, actually.
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It's amazing what speaking the language will do for you. Thanks for the schooling!
Cam

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On Sun, 02 Nov 2003 22:31:40 -0800, Cameron Lee wrote:

!/4" tempered hardboard makes a fairly durable top and if not glued down, can be replaced when it gets too dinged up. It's also much cheaper than laminate.
-Doug
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Does hardboard take polyurethane? I'd like a surface to which glue does not stick.
My workbenches are indeed for woodworking, though auxiliary functions like assembly tables, machine tables, etc. I don't plan to use them for heavy work. Got a 2x4 leviathan for that.
Cam

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On Tue, 04 Nov 2003 21:53:08 -0800, Cameron Lee wrote:

Yes it takes the smelly or waterbased poly just fine. I put 6 coats of waterbased on my tempered hardboard covered benches. The benchtops substrate is MDF.
Doug
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On 4 Nov 2003 21:53:08 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Cameron Lee) brought forth from the murky depths:

It'll be less expensive to put Johnson's Paste Wax on them them.
-- Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Turkey and Drive --
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That's a completely unbiased suggestion, right Lar?
-- Bill Pounds http://www.bill.pounds.net/woodshop
(Cameron Lee) brought

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lots of guys use masonite (hardboard). It's quite cheap. When and if you destroy it, just cut another one to size and replace it. use 1/4. tempered if you can find it. make the edge of your bench the same height as the installed height of the Masonite and then you don't even need to screw it down. That's the way I did my bench and I'm very happy with the work surface.
dave
Cameron Lee wrote:

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<<lots of guys use masonite (hardboard). It's quite cheap. When and if you destroy it, just cut another one to size and replace it. use 1/4. tempered if you can find it. >>
There's also a product called marlite which is basically masonite with a very thin non-porous surface bonded to it. You sometimes see it with a fake tile pattern embossed in it for use in shower surrounds in really crappy motel rooms or summer cottages. But it also comes with a smooth finish. Being cheap like the OP, I glued a sheet of it onto the top of my laundry room table as a substitute for more expensive laminate and in that light-duty situation it has been perfectly acceptible.
Lee
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To e-mail, replace "bucketofspam" with "dleegordon"



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Cameron Lee wrote:

After reading some of the other posts, I have to agree...depending on what these 'workbenches' will be usef for, Formica may not be the best choice. I've covered my TS auxilliary tables, router table and finishing tables with formica...I don't think I'd want my workbench to be Formica, for the reaons the others mentioned -- hammering, drilling and sawing are really not compatible with Formica. Additionally, if you want to clamp something down on the bench, you want something that offers some friction on the top of the bench, to make it easier to keep things in place.
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Price some rubber belts or belting- USED. Also Masonite/Hardboard-brown stuff. Now IF you are REALLY chaep, you can take a checkered tablecloth, lay it on the bench and soak it with varnish. Say 4 coats. It'll be there forever.
On 2 Nov 2003 22:31:40 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Cameron Lee) wrote:

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Varnish isn't free, you know. I've been saving my wife's discarded bottles of nail polish...
Cam

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If you are REALLY REALLY cheap, what about contact paper? Hey, I'm on a roll now!!!
On 2 Nov 2003 22:31:40 -0800, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (Cameron Lee) wrote:

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